Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Multiple Allergies, Chronic Fatigue, Chemical Sensitivity, and OCD

At this point in our career Paul and I have met several people at their wit's end because of multiple allergies and chronic fatigue. They all have similar complaints: "Help me! Help me! I'm desperate. I've had multiple allergies, chemical sensitivity and chronic fatigue for . . . 6 years." "10 years." "15 years. "30 years!" "I've tried EVERYTHING! Doctors, acupuncturists, psychotherapy, herbs. I can't do things I want to do because I'm practically a prisoner in my own home. I have to wear a mask in public. I can't be around scents or anything synthetic. EVERYTHING in my life has to be tightly controlled. I'm so mad! I feel SO vulnerable! I have to be constantly on my guard and I hate it! I can't understand how people allow these chemicals to exist. I can't believe that after all this time people still use shampoo with perfumes in it. Can't they see how dangerous this is?! I'm just the canary in the coal mine. " And so on.

Our hearts go out to them. We say "come on over" but when it comes to healing this type of illness, it's only recently that I can say we've started to get a handle on what it takes to succeed.

A little background on this: I've had multiple allergies and chronic fatigue myself. I can speak about this from the inside out. I know how scary it can be to have an overwhelming reaction to something that most people think is safe enough to eat. To take myself to the emergency room with dizziness and heart palpitations immediately after eating wheat bread at breakfast time. To think perhaps I had diabetes or some other life threatening disorder. To be told by my doctors: "There's nothing physically wrong that we can see." And yet to feel so exhausted I couldn't walk around the block.

I know what it's like to finally discover the world of allergens, to eliminate the culprits in my life and see my health dramatically improve practically overnight. I know what it's like to then have to watch what I eat, to read cereal boxes and all kinds of food products to eliminate all sources of the offending substances. To feel like I couldn't afford to take the risk of eating in a restaurant or at a friend's house unless I brought something I knew I could eat with me.

And I know what it's like to say "I'm not going to live my life this way. I can't believe my body isn't designed to handle these food stuffs, the pollen in the air, the cat on my couch, etc., etc. and I'm not going to settle for it any longer!"

Then I found out what it's like to succeed. My story, as it turns out, isn't everyone's story but it it's still a great place to begin.

There are lots variations to the scenario that puts these kinds of problems into place and, therefore, myriads of solutions. I took on a multi-modality approach myself -- acupuncture, herbs, liver detox, supplements, diet changes, psychotherapy -- and after achieving some successes with all of those things, completely eliminated the problem using a combination of the skills Paul and I use today (spiritual counseling, medical intuition and energy healing).

However, in my experience, in the end it doesn't really matter what route you use because the final piece of the battle -- at least for the most difficult cases -- is always the same. At some point you have to learn that the war is over. That you can put the battle down and know from deep down inside that you're actually well again, that it's safe to go out and play, that you really can begin again. And that's the place where belief comes in.

"When you fight something, you’re tied to it forever. As long as you’re fighting it, you’re giving it power." -- Anthony de Mello

What good was it to eliminate all sources of wheat, for example, from my life, do whatever process I did to eliminate the wheat "allergy," but continue to practically jump out of my skin whenever someone put a piece of wheat bread on my plate? That's the sticky part of this process of change: the immune system has been sensitized to the point that it goes on red alert in the presence of this allergen. It believes it is under attack. I can do all kinds of things to train it to do otherwise. But what if, when I hold that first piece of wheat bread in my hand, I also tell myself "Omigod, omigod, is this really safe to eat? Is this 'Hybrid wheat'? Was it sprayed with toxic chemicals? Am I going to go into heart palpitations again? What if it doesn't stop and it kills me this time? Aaagh!" Isn't my over-sensitive immune system going to react to what I think or say?

"Your body believes every word you say" -- that's the title of a book Barbara Levine wrote (Your Body Believes Every Word You Say : The Language of the Bodymind Connection 2nd. ed.). She's the current owner of Aslan Publishing, the company that published my first book The Solstice Evergreen: History, Folklore and Origins of the Christmas Tree. She's had an interesting life experience—she cured herself of a serious inoperable brain tumor by changing the way she used to think and that's no small project.

I did the same thing. When, after weeks of trying, my friend Katie, the person who taught me how to heal my allergies in the first place, told me I would be cured if not for my deep fear that that wasn't true I took it seriously. The next time I chose to test wheat I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, tried to get as grounded and meditative as I could and told myself "I know it is theoretically possible and immanently desirable for me to be able to eat wheat again . . . at least on occasion." That's as close as I could get at that time.

I held a piece of certified organically grown wheat bread produced by a reputable company I thought I could trust so I continued: "This is one of those occasions. I ask my body to allow this delicious healthy slice of wheat bread to be completely and healthily assimilated." I then took a bite and swallowed. Trust me, that was a huge test!

And I didn't die, have heart palpitations, get spacey, get a stuffy nose or be sick.

So I did it again. Ate the whole slice that time, got scared, felt those weird sensations of the old sensitivity coming on and stopped it in its tracks: "Please, body!" I took a breath and tried to calm down. "We managed this before. This is great food. Wholesome, nutritious, organic. I know we can manage this again and allow it to be completely and healthily assimilated." The spaciness and stuffy nose cleared.

I ate it again. Eventually I gave up the ritual of asking permission of God, my body or the powers within to let me eat wheat again. I just did it. And it doesn't have to be organic, made by a reputable company or any limited thing. I've been eating English muffins or pancakes or waffles in restaurants or in my home almost every day lately. Certain things bring the symptoms back from time to time. I recognize those triggers now—beliefs in the way, every time. I acknowledge them and tell myself a different story and it works, every time.

It's important to me that people understand that the illness didn't start by being all in my head. I never at any time said "I'm afraid of wheat now" before that substance was identified as an allergen. I learned to be afraid. Anybody who had been through a life-threatening or limiting situation caused by a substance they ate or were exposed to would do the same thing. It's important. It's how we survive. If eating the red berries on that tree over yonder makes you sick as a dog you don't try them again. Animals know better than that. Humans are the same. It's common sense. You'd do the same.

People with chemical sensitivities are not to blame for whatever triggered their disorder. Put your body through whatever emotional or physical trauma they went through and you'd go through the same thing. Notice I didn't pull my punches by refusing to implicate emotional triggers as a probable cause. I am hesitating on the inside. But feeling like horrible things have happened that were out of your control and desperately needing to feel safe and "in control" again is what happens when you live through an experience that felt horrible and out of your control whether that event was caused by being doused by a huge amount of pesticide on your way to the zoo one day or by a toxic uncontrollable family environment where you were fed poisonous words along with your breakfast cereal or where you worried and had no control over when some kind of overwhelming physical abuse might begin.

That kind of family environment can lay the seeds for oversensitivity to other kinds of perceived environmental attacks. An amber alert button can lay dormant for years and years and then come out into the open after the immune system gets worn down from a backlog of repeated stress. That last piece of bread, your neighbor spraying pesticides on his lawn around the corner, the last cycle of abuse, whatever it is that sends your system into red alert is the thing that gets blamed for the immune system's distress but it's typically only the last link in the chain. The planes that flew into the World Trade Center appeared to be the thing that sent our nation off to Iraq but the situation that really sent those war planes into action was in place decades, if not centuries, before that.

What does that have to do with being able to eat a slice of bread? Well, it's the associations our brain learns to make -- for better and for worse, conscious as well as unconscious, purposeful action or conditioned response -- that puts this type of illness and level of awareness it takes to heal it into place.

A person with chemical sensitivities "knows" that the world, for them, is now a very dangerous place. Life has proved it to them time and again. The brain stores these experiences under the title "known facts" and it doesn't matter what anyone else believes because "we know these truths to be self-evident" and that's where the "fun" begins.

Or doesn't. Take your pick.

People with multiple food or environmental sensitivities like I had develop obsessive/compulsive patterns to keep themselves well. If the smell of synthetic perfumes or newly laid formaldehyde-laden acrylic carpeting makes you sick, you learn to sniff the air every time you step into a room. You can detox a person's liver, chelate the dangerous chemicals from their system, and do all kinds of wonderful healing acts but if they consciously or unconsciously scan the air for danger everywhere they go they can inadvertently undo that healing in an instant by reinforcing the original belief that all is not well, the world is not benign, the amber alert light absolutely must stay ON.

And that causes stress on the immune system. And so it grows.

You know about The Law of Attraction now, right? What you focus on increases. At least in your consciousness. That's OCD. The more you worry and obsess about something the bigger and more obsession-worthy it seems.

To break the pattern, to REALLY heal yourself of the illness, you have to let go of the obsession—the belief that you can't be safe in the world as it exists today.

"Whoa!!!" My own inner activist pipes up to say. "What about those terrorists who want us dead? What about the fact that people really are modifying the foods we eat without knowing the long-term consequences of those actions? What about radiation being used to kill stuff on our vegetables? What about preservatives and other food additives that might be hurting our immune systems, and pesticides and other contaminants in the food we eat? What about the state of the world we live in? And given the line of questioning in my own website and on the news these days, what about the god-damned BEES??!!!"

Deep breath.

The sun is shining and, for the present moment at least, the grass continues to grow by itself.

About the bees: It's not being ignored. Let's forget for a second the environmentalists and usual activist suspects. The people who stand to gain the most from this problem being solved -- at least financially -- are, in my opinion, the very people who created the problems in the first place. The beekeepers and big agricultural interests and food suppliers themselves. They need the bees to stay in business. They know what to do -- investigate it! Figure out what's most important to do and get it done.

About our bodies: they know what to do, too. When the red alert button isn't stuck in the ON position our bodies do what needs to be done ONLY when they have to. If we give up pushing that button with all our might they get to rest and recuperate. We get well faster, stay that way longer, and do what needs to be done effortlessly, naturally, the way it used to be done before we thought we couldn't cope without employing superhuman efforts.

One last bit: We're never alone. Sometimes there is something that has to be done. Sometimes we do need help. But we don't have to figure it out by ourselves. We ask for help and Spirit answers in all kinds of ways. You can lay down your arms and let it come.

-----

Fast Forward to 2014: One of our favorite clients has had great success healing the most severe case of multiple chemical sensitivity we have ever seen. I believe she's using an approach called neuroplasticity retraining (although her specific program might call it something else--it's also known as amygdala retraining, neural retraining, limbic retraining, etc.) It's basically retraining the brain to stop believing that benign substances and not so benign substances that most people can handle are dangerous... and it works! Here are links to articles about this on the web (please note I am NOT endorsing any of these programs, just creating a resource list for myself and others to use as a starting place for further investigation.):

http://www.20somethingallergies.com/how-neuroplasticity-healed-my-multiple-chemical-sensitivities/

 http://alwayswellwithin.com/2010/05/11/retraining-the-brain-for-cfs-fms-mcs-ptsd-gws/

 http://www.dnrsystem.com/

http://www.normandoidge.com/ (The Brain's Way of Healing, The Brain That Changes Itself)




No comments: